"Tanking" is what a willing assistant would do in order to show proof of what is, in fact, staged for their audience.
Being the sort of person that I am, I have been keenly interested in justifying the need and value of the things I do. Of those things, a martial art is also very subject to that same judgement. Since I began my own training, I have kept in mind the fact that I must justify my efforts at least to myself.
Part of that justification has been the creation of a good chunk of this webspace, devoted entirely to my personal views. I've even gone far enough to have a private space just for a huge amount of notes on anything related, random ideas and thoughts, and whatever else comes to mind. The dangers of bowing to the need to self-justify aside.. my efforts and their value are not insignificant. What is publicly visible here is only part of what I have been engaged in thinking about anyways.
2017-12-03 - The vast majority of those aforementioned efforts will not be ported. I'm a different person.
Other concerns aside, and I have written on a number of them, one concern in particular had come to light in my mind some time ago. It is the idea of "tanking" in a martial art.
The idea of tanking was not new to me, but I had never heard nor thought of it in the context of the martial arts. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it as an issue. I know that I had considered the McDojo issue, where persons with false credentials would teach under false premises, making unrealistic promises and all that sort of nonsense. The idea of trusting an instructor is something which I myself had spawned from ideas of trusting a person in general anyways, and I review the value of such a relationship constantly. Perhaps I had not considered tanking because I was already well aware of the need to find value in an instructor.
After the fact, I could also relate the concerns on tanking to concerns of mysticism and the like. However, my concerns for mysticism are pretty small, since everywhere I have turned I have received some variation of "there is no mysticism, it's just a lot of hard work".
The lead-in aside, there are concerns -- most especially by professionals -- of the requirement for legitimacy in training. Their concern is that what they learn and demonstrate may either save or lose lives when put into practice. There have been a great number of discussions on the legitimacy of any particular martial art. I too have similar concerns, and mine are much more present because I'm actively training.
When confronted with the notion that what a person is training in is not legitimate or valuable, their ego often springs forth with much wrath, to justify the history of its activity. I have personally known people to cite the lineage of their instruction, medals and trophies, flaunt their proposed ability in theoretical situations, etc. Any particular martial artist is not immune to this. Sometimes, arguments with respect to their art will "break down" to become "try it and you will see".
2017-12-03 - I am reminded of religious arguments which must inevitably break down into "you just have to have faith".
"Try it" is not a valid rebuttal in an orderly discussion. It is thought to be dismissive. Often times, however, it may be thought to be legitimate to use this rebuttal since it is difficult or tasking to eloquently and concretely answer a deep inquiry. At other times, it is because the original inquiry is accusatorial or closed-minded and there cannot truly be a satisfying rebuttal. In these cases, some form of "would you dare try it to find out for yourself?" may be the best counter-argument, if one is even given, since avoiding the escalation of a confrontation is pretty much the norm.
My martial arts studies is founded on self-discovery. It is extremely personal. It is personal so much so that I often have a difficult time comprehending what I'm doing. That may sound pretty bad, and I suppose since I can't really demonstrate or talk about anything it kindof is. For many, they have their own, and they too learn it as a personal experience. This personalness is one of the most awkward barriers to open discussion, most especially deep discussion.
The fact is, I don't really care that I can't demonstrate or really talk about what I'm learning. I don't feel the need to stroke my own ego. Yet I'm writing this, aren't I.. so I still struggle with my self-justification. The publicity of writing this is merely my zuihitsu bleeding through my methods of inner discourse and struggle, so don't think of the writing itself as some need to feed my ego by impressing others. Geeze, I just write a lot.. it's not like I'm any good anyways. =p
All of my experiences are personally biased, and this is pretty much the same for anyone. I speak from my own perspective and not from one taught to me. The very nature of a martial for me is personal. Herein, I will try to express my opinion on the issue of a martial art and tanking.
I do not have blind faith in anything. Not a single thing. I regularly question my own methods and motives and sanity. I accuse and challenge and judge everything that comes into my field of experience. It's not only in my nature, it is in my daily practice, and in my experiences of life. It is what I am. This questioning has continued within my experiences with a martial art. This writing here is a product of some of that questioning. Perhaps this questioning is one of my fundamental barriers to becoming a better person, but I'll question.. urr.. I'll explore that issue later.
Many discussions about a martial art's legitimacy has spawned from a video or video clip presenting something astonishing. A man walked up to another, and one person flinches subtly, and the other goes into a roll. Many of these clips are brief enough that they present no real indication of what is being demonstrated. Here's the key though.. it's a demonstration. Not only that, it's just a clip! In many cases it won't have a background or a justification or anything.. it's just a piece of a home-video of some kind or other.
Learning my martial art does not consist of memorizing and reproducing things. The class experience itself isn't even a matter of being taught. Yes, it's a class where nobody is taught. I take everything as good advice, and then judge it for myself. For me, I go to get ideas and to try stuff out. Aah, there's that phrase. Yes, even someone on the inside will see something, question it and go and try it out for themselves. It is, in fact, how it works for me. Everything is an idea. Everything is subject to interpretation. Nothing is accepted blindly until I try it out.
In many cases I am young in what I do, and often I am simply not confident enough to try certain things out. I could cite any number of things which I think are unbelievable.. things which even I grin and giggle at when I see. I completely understand how ridiculous the very idea of some things are. I also still have a very strong child in my heart, who hopes beyond hope for the existence of magic, so life can get weird sometimes.
Then again, at some points in my life I giggled at the ideas of intuition, the importance of smiling while stressed, how valuable relaxation can be in a fight, and other concepts. I will continue with the examination of the importance of keeping in contact with an opponent, or understanding balance and tension. Someday later, "no touch", combat psychology and armed mass combat will be of interest.
There are things in life which, as children, we had looked at with wonder. Some of these things we would learn ourselves, and as it would turn out those things are not so wondrous after all. Great bridges and skyscrapers, curious electronics and other bits of technology must seem wondrous to children. As we mature, many things become demystified as our understanding broadens.
As adults, we understand that there are things which are outside of our field of expertise. We know that there are good and decent people who have worked hard to be able to do what they do or to make what they make. We fully accept that sometimes there are things which are beyond our understanding.. and yet we assure ourselves that there are reasons, and things can be learned and reproduced and understood. This same assurance must also apply to a martial art.
Even now, there are things in my martial art which I haven't learned, which I cannot reproduce and which I don't understand. When I deem myself ready, and when it comes down to it, I'll try those things and see for myself.
There are issues of gullibility and suggestibility which have come up in some discussions. On this I have only a little to say. Keep in mind that a class, and even a demonstration, is really just us having some fun. Yes, fun. It's an integral part of training. The base idea being that one trains towards proficiency with a light heart so that one has even more inner strength to draw from should a dire need arise. I'd also say that it's useful for me to eschew grimness to -- for lack of a better way of saying it -- keep my soul pure.
A lot of the work which I participate in is what we call 'soft'. By this, I mean that it is slower and more timed. I would sum it up as 'considerate'. The idea being that a person can find great help in diminishing fear, anger and hesitation in the work they do by training like this. Soft or slow work is a huge debate unto itself. I'm not quite sure why I even brought it up. Hmm.. well I would like to convey the importance of a lack of stress in my training. I'm sure that if I were to participate in a demonstration of what happens in a class, that I would convey a relaxedness which could easily come off as overenthusiasm.. perhaps even gullibility.
This 'fun' must come off very strangely in some situations, to the point of making demonstrations lack the dire seriousness others may expect. The argument could go along the lines of saying that because there is a greater audience reviewing the demonstration greater care must be used in its creation. There is talk of a lack of realism. It goes on.
Frankly, I agree. My martial arts' demonstrations are really light-hearted. More importantly, those I have seen are pretty much like any random class I've been to. I remember watching videos and thinking to myself that it's great fun, and that It's so boring sitting there watching it.. and I may as well just go to a class because I'd learn more and have more fun. Frankly, I see little benefit in them at this point in my 'career', over going to a class or especially over filming my own activity. I know there is benefit in them for others, and there will be for me later, but right now I appreciate doing the work over watching it.
The light-heartedness may have students come across as being over-willing. I would certainly see it that way. In fact, I keep this in mind when I view demonstrations. However, this light-heartedness doesn't make practitioners soft. In-class games are pretty frequent, as with the occasional cute sucker-punch. I say cute, because it'll hurt but it's meant to be friendly and keep you on your toes. The training environment is another story, but it's not cushy. Testing one another is common.
The discussion on the blood sweat and tears that goes into training is best left for some other time. These things do exist, although experiences vary. Let me leave that with the idea that training really is meant to be realistic, and yet wholly immersive and experience-ial and fun and all that kind of goodness. Don't scold me for the poor explanation. I'll leave this with the comment that, as I understand it, there are indeed martial artists who do indeed fight, in pursuit of a seriousness. Such things are not unknown.
More to the point, the training attitude is not one of "fighting" per se., but one of flowing within a fight. Even if a demonstration were 'stepped up' in a sense, both parties would still seem calm and relaxed. Their expressions may still come off as willingness or openness. These expressions are purposeful and desirable, for reasons best left to another discussion.
The fact is, many students have been or still are highly sceptical and analytical about what they do. These are intelligent and capable people and are most definitely not dupes. I know this to be true, because I've taken the time to judge them and understand their experiences to what degree I am able. So my not having directly experienced something isn't so bad, as I can judge the people who have. When it comes down to it, though, I'd still rather see for myself.
This scepticism which people have may exist for any number of reasons, and one of them could be that they have a great wealth of experience in another martial art. Actually, from what I've noticed it's pretty common for a person to have an existing martial arts background before training in my own.
I don't do what I do to be cool, or to be like someone. The aforementioned judgement of another person or their experiences is pretty harsh. I don't really play the role model game well. What I end up doing is forming a first impression based on the opinions of others. My first impression of even the most unbelievable stuff in my martial art which I've heard of or have seen demonstrations of is.. good. It's good. I think of it well enough that I don't believe I'm being openly deceived. In fact, I feel pretty bad about questioning such things.
I'm also still sceptical, and will remain so even of my own abilities should one day they encompass those seen in the stranger demonstrations. Maybe then I'd even be willing to risk being put in a hospital so that a "good demonstration" can be made.
Something I've often wondered is the issue of suggestibility being quietly trained into a practitioner to the point that someone in the know could take advantage of that training. Many demonstrations are thought to be taking advantage like that. This concerns be greatly, since I want to think so highly of myself that I certainly couldn't be subject to something as demeaning as that. Aah, the ego. =/
So I've keep the suggestion concept in mind. I've thought quite a bit about it. I think I'm subject to this "suggestion", and will grow more "susceptible". A bold thing to say, perhaps.
So here's the thing. I have come to understand, at least within and for myself, that there are certain fundamental things in a person. Things like breathing or moving. These things can be understood and even predicted by someone well practised. I know that someone good enough will be able to distract me or make me tense or embarrassed or angry. That same person could even take advantage of me in a demonstration of sorts.
Hmm, how could I explain this better? I'll give a pretty near and dear example. I hate rolling right now. I don't like the idea of demeaning myself or of putting myself in a potentially submissive position. It's an ego issue, and one of many that I know of. I will train this away, to give myself the ability to escape situations where alternative reactions could prove.. well more painful at the least. I would eventually be able to casually roll away just as easily as I could step aside or turn or what have you. At some point I will view the ground as just another avenue for movement.
For me, when I look at demonstrations which include a rolling escape. I notice how effortless the attack is, and I notice how the escaper seems wilful in the action. The fact is, the escape is meant to be wilful. Rolling really is supposed to be like that.. controlled. When I see such demonstrations, what I think is that the escaper is rolling just as easily as they could turn or step aside. I see how fluid it is. I don't understand what is going on, of course, but like so many other things I am intrigued enough that I want to try it myself. It's how I've learned to understand everything in my martial art.
The evasion often seen in demonstrations often seems too willing, with an unarmed person supposedly forcing people to give them a wide berth. My martial art does not train just towards evasion of an unarmed attack but against all kinds of weapons like the knife or stick. Perhaps the same type of roll is being used which could apply to an attack by a longer weapon than the bare fist. I myself am learning the value of getting my entire body out of the line of fire when I need to. It is very possible that if I were faced with a circumstance I may choose to move via a roll and escape widely rather than just turn or move aside.
Back to the issue of suggestibility. To be frank, I've had an eye on this from an angle I had not previously thought related. Something which I've always had an interest in are countermeasures. Ever play rock-paper-scissors? One thing counters another. Being the judgemental sort, I've applied this line of thinking to everything in life. Looking back, I do regret a lot of that logic but it is has laid a decent foundation for the need for examination.
I do recognize some inherent weaknesses in the idea of countermeasures. One needs one for every measure.. one is constantly harassed for solutions by every challenge in life. Well, I could go fairly deep into this but I won't. Something which I've noticed in particular is how capable my martial art is against itself. This is something I've noticed time and time again. What I've seen is how my martial art doesn't condition a person to react in any particular way.
Mind you, I'm young at all of this, so perhaps I am blind to the greater and more complex issue of being tempered towards a certain state which could be taken advantage of. Frankly, I'm learning confidence, fluidity of movement, persistence in a fight, and other qualities which I presently consider to be wholly well and good. I don't feel that I am being trained to be a dupe, but it's a possibility which I'm constantly scanning for.. even though I feel bad about the instinct to do so.
I myself am both a very open person and a very closed person. I have an accepting mask but am very judgemental. For me, all I know is that I can keep my ass out of a lot more trouble now than before I began on this route. That's not the only reason I came, but it matters a lot to me.
So on the issue of tanking. I don't believe it exists in my martial art. It seems to me that even in the most unbelievable videos the people are having some fun and just happen to be on camera. Sure they line things up a bit to demonstrate something specific, but it's not a show. I train with the same spirit and enjoyment that I see on a recording. More than half of the stuff is beyond me, sure, but what I see are still useful demonstrations.
Yes, I'd love to see more realism being filmed.. but I don't know if I'd be aware enough to notice the realism. Maybe "My martial art versus martial art 'x'" would be useful, but I so don't want to go there. After all.. half of the people I've trained with have a not insignificant amount of time with another martial art. If I ever get curious, I'll just ask some black belt or other to do their black belt stuff to see how I would deal with it. Yeah, i guess if I really needed to know, I'd try it for myself.
- Training is learned cooperatively at a pace commensurate with the abilities of each trainee.
Because of the potential to cause serious injury, by training cooperatively, even potentially lethal techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.